PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - Pearl Harbor survivor Dave Callahan, 86, returned to the site of the devastating attack for the first time in nearly 70 years. He never thought he would be back at the place filled with painful memories.
"I said, 'I never want to see this place again ever.' It didn't have any good memories for me," Callahan said.
Callahan lied about his age to join the Navy when he was just 16. A few months later, he was a naive sailor on the USS New Orleans when the Japanese attacked.
"We were waving to them. They didn't wave back. They went ahead and dropped their torpedoes to get the battleships," recalled Callahan. "It was about 10 minutes after 8 when the Arizona exploded, and I think in that moment is when I grew up."
Callahan said he spent the next two weeks retrieving bodies, digging graves and burying the dead.
"That was one of the worst parts of anything. I was just totally shocked, and I was totally shocked that anyone had the nerve to sink our fleet," said Callahan.
Callahan eventually became a demolition diver and earned a Purple Heart for his wounds at Iwo Jima. He put Pearl Harbor in the past until fellow church member Jon Salas convinced him to return this year. Salas even arranged a free trip from California for the veteran and his wife.
"I didn't realize I didn't have a closure and I always kind of pooh-poohed people that did get a closure to something, but I know what they mean now," said Callahan. "It just seems to me like it's a shame that I waited so long."
Now he has finally reached the end of his journey of healing that took seven decades to finish.